Thousands of Afghans Remain Housed on US Bases Months After the Fall of Kabul

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Afghan children at a park at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
A service member assigned to Task Force Liberty plays with Afghan children at a park at Liberty Village at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Oct. 28, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead)

Military bases are still housing about 19,500 Afghan refugees as they seek resettlement in the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The refugees are now spread across five domestic bases with the highest number -- 9,700 Afghans -- being hosted by Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Thousands more are at facilities in Wisconsin, Virginia, Indiana and New Mexico.

The men, women and children who call the bases a temporary home were evacuated from Afghanistan as the country fell to Taliban control and the last U.S. military forces pulled out on Aug. 30, ending a 20-year war.

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It was one of the largest airlifts in history as the military, civilian government and veterans groups scrambled to rescue Afghans who helped U.S. forces over the past two decades and feared reprisals from the new regime.

Over the past four months, more than 55,000 Afghans have been resettled in communities across the U.S., DHS said in an email. It is among the federal agencies, including the Defense Department, that are managing the effort called Operation Allies Welcome.

DHS reported that the remaining number of refugees being housed at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is 9,700; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, 4,400; Fort Pickett, Virginia, 2,700; Camp Atterbury, Indiana, 1,100; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, 1,600.

The shrinking numbers of remaining refugees has meant three bases, including Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, have ended their roles providing "safe havens," as DHS calls the villages that have sprung up with dining facilities, soccer games and shura councils, traditional tribal councils that settle disputes.

At Quantico, the housing tents, military personnel, food, medical and educational services rang up a $188 million price tag from August to December, when the last Afghans were resettled and the base ended its program, the Defense Department inspector general reported last week.

The costs of Afghan resettlement became a political issue on Capitol Hill in December, with some Republicans balking at legislation providing another $7 billion for the effort. Congress has approved $13.3 billion, including earlier funding passed in September.

The IG report was the first in a series of planned audits of the Afghan resettlement, which may look at costs elsewhere. The Pentagon did not immediately provide cost estimates on Monday for the eight bases that participated in Operation Allies Welcome.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: Quantico Rings Up $188 Million Bill for Afghan Refugees Housed in Tents

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